Historical Experience

Sergeant Tim Bowe

Interviewed 8 September 2021

PROTECTING LORD MOUNTBATTEN

Retired Sergeant Tim Bowe joined An Garda Síochána on the 8th of May 1968 and served until 2004. He is a native of County Tipperary where his family are steeped in the GAA. His grandfather, Ned Bowe was a member of the Tipperary hurling team that won the first All Ireland in 1887. In this segment, Tim Bowe discusses his experience of guarding Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Mountbatten was a British naval officer, colonial administrator and relative of the British Royal Family. On 27th August 1979, Mountbatten was killed after a bomb, planted by the Provisional IRA, was detonated. The bomb killed Mountbatten, as well as his daughter Patricia, her husband, Lord John Brabourne, their 14-year-old twins, Timothy and Nicholas, and Lord Brabourne’s mother, the dowager Lady Doreen Brabourne, as well as Paul Maxwell, 15, a friend of the family who worked on the boat.

JOHN O’BRIEN: Now, Tim, I know that you were working at Union Quay in the Superintendent’s office for some time and of course you were a single man at that stage. Because of border duty and various other stuff there was always great pressure to send members, like yourself, from, you know, other parts of the country to the border area to take up the, you know the requirements that, that were needed to man the border or the particular security situation that related. I think in that context that in 1974 you were sent on temporary transfer to Cliffoney in County Sligo. There’s a particular job that needed, duty that needed doing there because Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was assassinated there in 1979, came on his, on his annual holiday. So you went to Cliffoney, the local station in County Sligo, and you were there to protect Lord Louis Mountbatten and his family. What do you remember of that, Tim?

RETIRED SGT. TIM BOWE: Well I only did one temporary transfer during my whole career in the force and that was in July of 1974 when I went on a three week temporary transfer to Cliffoney in Co. Sligo. The reason was about 14 or 15 other gardaí from around the country were there as well to provide protection for Lord Louis Mountbatten and his family during their annual vacation there. I was and others, my duty was providing protection duty at the entrance gate to Classiebawn Castle and also providing protection at nighttime on his fishing boat, the Shadow Five, which was parked at the pier at Mullaghmore Pier. So I have a clear memory of starting duties, whether on at 8 in the morning or at 6 in the evening or 10 in the evening, and doing an eight hour tour of duty either at pier minding, protecting the boat or either at the gate. At the end of our three weeks there in Cliffoney Mountbatten, Lord Louis Mountbatten, he invited us into the castle where he made a presentation and gave us all a letter. I have a photo here that he gave me, a photo of himself, and also a letter. The letter basically says, dated the 29th July ’74. It says:

“Dear Garda Bowe,
I hope you will accept this photograph as a token of gratitude for looking after our family so well.
Yours sincerely,
Mountbatten of Burma.”

So I have a clear recollection of that and I have regained that letter and photograph to this present day.

MR. O’BRIEN: Tim, maybe just tell us a little bit about, physically what did Louis Mountbatten look like? Was he a big man, a small man? What kind of a presence did he have?

RETIRED SGT. BOWE: He had a huge presence, a very tall man. They all had, the royal family, his family had all Range Rovers, big cars, and big cars. They actually went every day at approximately 10.30 or 11.30 they came in three or four cars down to the pier, the Mullaghmore Pier. A group of them, maybe about nine or ten, went out for lobster fishing. Other days in the afternoon they drove to Sligo. Detectives had to, and uniform guards had to escort them to and fro. A very lovely man. As I said he took time at the end of his three weeks holiday to meet every one of the gardaí present and to talk to them and to present that photograph and letter, you know.

MR. O’BRIEN: Tim, would he pass the time of day as he went by, you know, with the rest of the family or was he aloof or was he friendly?

RETIRED SGT. BOWE: Well I can’t say that. As I said you’d be on, we were on duty at the entrance gate to Classiebawn Castle or at the pier and we had only that, unless you were a detective up at the castle and very close to him, I didn’t have that opportunity to meet him.